Workplace nutrition interventions are documented to improve health outcomes in most areas of health, including those that have the most impact on workplace productivity, such as depression, fatigue, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, immunity and symptoms of menopause.
Emerging research is also showing productivity benefits to workplace nutrition interventions. For example, a 2022 study used dietary changes for employees with pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes or obesity and reported favourable outcomes such as weight loss, reduced blood pressure, lower blood glucose and reduced risk of cardiovascular complications. The study authors concluded: “These preliminary data provide proof-of-principle that when companies invest in the metabolic health of their workers, both parties stand to gain.”
Caroline Hind, specialist metabolic health nutritionist at Nutrable, comments:
Nutrition can directly impact diabetes and heart disease risk, as well as improving mood, energy levels, hormonal balance and resistance to seasonal coughs, colds and flu. Specific nutrients are necessary for the correct functioning of the brain, the heart, the liver and every other part of the body. As nutritionists, we use dietary modifications to correct underlying imbalances in the body and help people to feel the benefits in as little as three days.
Caroline Hind, health nutritionist, Nutrable
How nutrition improves employee health and productivity:
1. Protein for Mood and Motivation
Many people are not getting enough protein in their diet. Protein is not just for muscle building in the gym. Adequate protein is essential for balanced moods and resilience to stress. Protein provides building blocks for the body to make mood-enhancing neurotransmitters (brain messengers!) and hormones such as serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. When people include protein-rich foods in every meal, they experience fewer swings in blood glucose levels, which means fewer swings in mood, energy and motivation. Blood flow to the brain is also optimised for better concentration and cognitive ability. The brain simply works better this way.
2. Minerals for Energy
Minerals are not just for school chemistry class. The foods we eat need to provide our body with the right minerals, in the right amount, to keep us functioning well. Minerals such as magnesium, copper and zinc are the catalysts which kick off the chemical processes that create energy in our cells. Not only that, but an adequate intake of minerals such as selenium, iodine and iron are essential to keep the thyroid gland nourished and prevent fatigue. Processed, factory-made foods tend to be devoid of minerals, leaving important biochemical processes functioning sub-optimally and making employees lethargic, lacking sleep and open to short- and long-term illness. Simple dietary changes can get employees back on track surprisingly quickly.
3. Antioxidants for Immunity
The cells in our body are under attack all the time from everyday metabolic processes, stress and environmental pollutants. The knights in shining armour that ride in to protect us from this onslaught are the mighty Antioxidants. These substances are both made in the body and found in the food we eat. To keep up a good supply of antioxidants so that the body can work effectively, the diet needs to contain lots of vitamin C and a range of polyphenols, the plant compounds that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours and flavours. Employees who increase their antioxidant intake experience a boost in immunity, energy, sleep quality and cognitive function.
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.